Day 12. Wednesday. Franz Josef to Haast.
Trip Start Oct 09, 2010
23Trip End Oct 31, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
For this trip I picked Franz Josef Glacier Guides, one of a few companies that can take us to the glacier and back. This one offers a slightly longer trip, more time on the ice, all gear included. We head over to the departure offices, sign the necessary forms, collect our gear. We’re getting waterproof pants and jackets, as well as a pair of boots with spikes for the ice. We hop on the bus for the 15 min ride to the Glacier Park. We pay $104 per person, about R550.
We have to make a 10 minute hike down into the valley, the official departure point
Once we get to the base of the glacier the entire group is broken up into 4 smaller groups. Groups 1 and 2 are the faster climbers and will start first, Groups 3 and 4 are the slower climbers, 4 being the most unfit. We decide to go with Group 2, so we’re the second group to start climbing. The first section is the hardest; it’s a very steep climb up a hill. This part is still soil, once on top of the hill the ground meets with ice, this is where we stop to attach our spikes to our boots. We get a few lessons on how to climb, how to bend your knees, and how to place your feet. And then we’re off! At first you have to concentrate on slamming the spikes into the ice for grip, but after 5 minutes it comes naturally and you don’t have to think about it anymore.
This is a half day trip, which means that we should be back in town around 14:30, and it leaves us with plenty of time on the ice
I’ll admit that we were tired by the time we were descending again, the walk back through the valley was a killer for me. This was the worst day with my cold, my head was pounding, my nose was blocked, I just felt miserable. But what an amazing day and once-in-a-lifetime experience! The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are really unique relics of the last ice age, they are classically beautiful. Nowhere else in the world have glaciers advanced so close to the sea at this latitude. The terminal face of the glacier is less than 300 metres above sea level and is just one of three to be this close to the coastline. First explored in 1865, the Franz Josef Glacier has been moving forward at a rate of about 1 metre a day since 1985.
Back in town we return our gear, fill up the vans with diesel, and we start making our way towards Haast. 30km outside Franz Josef is a teensy tinsy town named Fox GlacierReflectioNZ, a unique and classy New Zealand themed gift shop and gallery. We buy a few souvenirs here, I end up with a really nice snow-globe-like magnet for $7.50, and a set of bookmarks for $6.
Our stop for the night is 117km further at a town called Haast, a small place that doesn’t even qualify as a town. The attractions here are mostly outdoors: fishing, hunting, hiking and definitely nothing in the shopping or dining departments. We arrive at our campsite (at $32 per night), but the place is full of old geezers who seem to live at the camp. We manage to find two sites, smack in the middle of the mud.
It’s still early and we’ve already eaten, so we get together in our van and we just play cards for a while, tell jokes and stories, and soon 2 hours whizz by. The weather is about as unpleasant as the night we spent in Wellington, and after the hours of hiking and climbing we are all tired and head to bed.